At the time of writing this post, mid-October 2020, it has been exactly two and a half years since we saw the Olympus DS-9500 dictaphone and the new R7 release of ODMS software (Olympus Dictation Management System) for Windows. So it would be fair to speculate the something new is coming soon, but what will it be and what will it be called?
We have been an Olympus dealer for 15 years, we have no idea what is coming so this is just our thoughts.
New Olympus Dictaphones?
Maybe, the Olympus DS-9500 has had its fair share of issues since launch but in fairness to Olympus these have been fairly quickly resolved with a stream of regular firmware updates. The Olympus DS-9500 was the first digital dictaphone to introduce wifi into a digital voice recorder but this competed with their own very popular Olympus Dictation App for iPhone and Android. Plus wifi on a recorder is a great idea in theory but the setup, speed of connection and general usability has not been the best user experience with many users opting to drop using wifi altogether on the device.
Then came the DS-9000. Olympus originally launched the Olympus DS-9000 dictaphone in Australia (it is exactly the same as the DS-9500 but without the wifi) which is just a dictaphone just on its own, no dock, no power supply just the voice recorder, USB cable and ODMS R7 Dictation Module software. Usually we would have seen the DS-9000 as the default new model, following the line of succession from the past DS-4000 -> DS-5000 -> DS-7000 -> DS-9000.
Recently Olympus added the Olympus DS-9000 kit, so with all the usual trimmings in the box like the dock and power, this must be because of pushback from around the globe on the DS-9500 wifi model.
We feel that the combination of physical dictaphone in the office or medical practice and/or the Olympus Dictation App on your phone is the sweet spot for the dictating professional.
And/or being the key, for those who just want to dictate at work then the physical Olympus DS-9000 kit is the way to go and is what many authors have been used to for years (same as the Olympus predecessors the DS-7000/DS-5000/DS-4000). Those who want or need to dictate out of the office, ie. from home, doing consult rounds etc, then the Olympus Dictation App is the way to go. They can be used independently or in combination, your choice.
If you didn’t know, the Olympus Dictation App and the physical DS series dictaphones create exactly the same audio format (.ds2 by default, can also be changed to older .dss) with the same Author ID. When the audio arrives at the typist or outsourced transcription service they don’t know or care which device the audio came from. They just know it is from the same Author, no interruption to workflow.
New Olympus Dictaphone & Software Name?
What about the name. We have reached the 9000 series (having come from DS/AS-4000 then DS-/AS-5000 then DS-/AS-7000 to the DS-9500/AS-9000 and more recently the DS-9000) so where to next? I don’t see a DS-10000 or AS-10000 being a viable option so maybe a whole new naming structure for a whole new dictation device, perhaps along the lines of Apple with an Olympus Dictaphone 1? What are your thoughts on this?
Olympus Dictation / Transcription Subscription Software Licencing?
Subscription, this has to happen. The Olympus software model of sell a single licence which can only be used on one device for one price over a 5 year period is not sustainable. As a consumer we may not like constant subscriptions but as a business it’s now essential for regular constant income that can drive innovation, ongoing enhancements and financial planning.
Plus with the recent COVID issues globally where entire workforces have had to switch from office to home working the single licence install model failed miserably. The number of customers we had who couldn’t believe that they needed a whole new licence to install on a home PC was huge, causing quite a bit of dissatisfaction. Philips recently moved to a subscription model for their Windows SpeechExec Pro v11 software and they couldn’t have timed it better. It allows installs on multiple Windows devices, only one can be used at a time. Perfect if you work at home and/or in the office.
Support for Dictation/Transcription Software on the Mac Dropped?
We have a feeling this may be on the cards unfortunately. Why? Well development on DSS Player Plus for Mac over the last 10 years has been non-existent with just the bare minimum to either work on the yearly new release of Apple’s macOS operating system or to support the new model dictaphones and the recent H series foot pedals (RS-31H/RS-28H). We have seen no effort to bring the functionality of DSS Player Plus for Mac in-line with what the Windows users enjoy, ie. automated audio load from email, automated email of dictation to typists and even the basic audio control when the window is not in focus. Yes Windows is still predominantly used but Mac is still a popular choice for some practices.
With the imminent release of masOS 11 Big Sur we are already getting the heads up from Olympus on potential issues. See this post “Olympus for Mac users – Don’t Upgrade to macOS 11 Big Sur Yet”
The Olympus Dictation App for iPhone and Android?
Yes, something has to give here too. First the price. It has been stuck at $149 incl. GST since it was first launched seven years ago, that equates to approximately $0.65 (yes, 65 cents) per business day to use. That gives you unlimited dictations, 24×7 – when you look at it that way it is quite a bargain for Olympus Dictation App users.
For the Olympus dealers though not so much. The profit from each ODDS (Olympus Dictation Delivery Service) licence is small. The amount of time required to manage each licence is large. Guaranteed most users don’t know how or forget how to renew their licences yearly, we help. There is no auto-billing from Olympus, we have to invoice, then chase, then make sure that licence renewal is really required.
Then there are the people who sign themselves up for an ODDS free trial. Guaranteed they don’t understand the nuances of navigating the Olympus Dictation Portal. Nobody understands that a company account can be created and all users licences managed under one portal login. All time that the dealers take to educate and help.
Secondly, reliability. This year has been a shocker for the Olympus ODDS system. We saw a two-week global outage earlier in the year, multiple sporadic outages for hours at a time and in the last two weeks, there have been two one whole day outages. The Olympus Dictation App is used mainly by the legal and medical community, these include surgeons, medical specialists, barristers and quite a few judges. Any outage causes disruption and is amplified when the dictation is urgent for legal and medical reasons. After all, this is why people pay money for a voice recording/dictation app in a field of hundreds of free apps; availability, reliability and security.
Now with any outage come the questions from end-users and they come thick and fast; “Is the app down?”, “Are there issues?”, “My audio won’t send?” – we have 400 active Olympus ODDS subscribers, the vast majority will ring or email asking if there are issues, asking when it will be fixed, asking for any workaround to send urgent dictation. The amount of resources we and other global Olympus dealers throw at supporting our customers for a very small once a year commission on a licence is unsustainable. We do it because we care for our customers, Olympus will need to step up and take some of this with better communication to their users and regular/easy to find updates when issues do occur.
Don’t get us wrong, people love the app. When it is explained and setup properly a very high percentage of users, even long time physical dictaphone users, love the app. Olympus you know you are onto a winner here, give it and the people who support it some love.
Olympus Audio Gets a New Owner – Japan Industrial Partners Inc. [JIP]
But change will have to occur and it has. Back in June 2020 the audio part of Olympus, owned by Olympus Imaging in Japan was transferred to an investment fund called Japan Industrial Partners Inc. (JIP).
Olympus Imaging had dropped the ball on audio, maybe lack of interest, maybe more excited about their range of cameras. As a result the audio side has suffered. JIP should bring new ideas and innovation to an audio line loved by many of Olympus’ faithful users but, there is always a but, is it a little too late?
Philips Dictation, for years in our opinion looked up to and followed Olympus, took some control and innovated themselves. As a result Philips have leapfrogged Olympus to now be the leaders, both in technology and innovation, in the digital audio dictation and transcription world. Their dictation app is slick, world-class and reliable, their dictaphones modern and stylish and their software licencing model what business needs. It is not too late for Olympus but JIP needs to take control and do it quickly.
When Will We See Something New from Olympus Audio?
As we said at the beginning of this post this is all pure speculation. In our opinion we don’t think anything will change in the next 6-9 months, maybe mid to late 2021 we might start to see the stamp that new owners JIP are putting on the Olympus Audio range of products.